Notes From Spring Practice: Day 9

The Ducks took to the practice filed in shells this morning as head coach Chip Kelly gave his players a break from pads before the team heads down the home stretch of spring drills.

With the third week of spring practices getting underway Monday, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly gave his team brief respite from six consecutive practices in pads, as the Ducks worked primarily in shells inside the Moshofsky Center this afternoon. According to NCAA rules, teams must have at least three "unpadded" practices during spring drills, beginning with the first two of any spring football campaign. In the past, the Ducks have saved the third practice without pads for the practice before the annual spring game, however Kelly felt like he would do right by his players by breaking things up a little this morning.

"We looked at it as the right way to do it," said Kelly. "Sometimes you do it the last practice before the spring game, but that meant you go 12 straight in padded practices. We put this right smack in the middle and our kids responded the way we wanted them to respond."

The Ducks will be back in pads Tuesday, beginning a stretch of six more padded spring sessions, which includes the culmination of spring drills with the spring game on April 28.

For much of the spring, the focus on offense has approximately centered on a heated quarterback battle and depth concerns at running back, yet, maybe the biggest question mark of all is how well will the Ducks replace departed senior tight end, David Paulson. The position, as it currently stands, doesn't lack raw, but largely unproven, talent. Colt Lyerla, Christian French and Evan Baylis have been competing for reps this spring as they wait for true freshman Pharaoh Brown to join the fray come August and the start of fall camp. Of all the tight ends expected to compete for legitimate playing time next season, Lyerla is the only one with game experience, having appeared in 12 games for the Ducks last year; flashing tantalizing potential as he hauled in five touchdowns passes only seven receptions. With his role figuring to expand in 2012, Kelly says Lyerla's progression this spring has been one of constant improvement.

"He's changed from a high school running back to be a full time tight end," said Kelly of Lyerla. "I saw a lot of improvement as the season went along last year, from preseason camp through obviously the [regular] season.

"He's playing with a lot more confidence and getting a real good grasp of what we're doing now, so I'm pleased with Colt so far this spring."

Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney

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